But how, more specifically, have they won 12 playoff games? We can quantify the importance of each swing via Championship Win Probability Added, a metric created by baseball analyst Sky Andrecheck that measures how much a particular play influences a team’s chances to win the World Series. For example, Soto’s solo home run off Gerrit Cole in Game 1 of the World Series was a big moment for the franchise, increasing the team’s chances of a championship by almost four percent with one swing of the bat.
That’s not bad, but still not valuable enough to crack this list of the 12 postseason plays that delivered the Nats their first World Series ring. Here’s a closer look at each of those, starting with the at-bat that was most responsible for Washington’s spectacular title run.
1. World Series Game 7 | Howie Kendrick’s two-run homer off Will Harris
Situation: Top of the seventh, one out, runner on first
The Nationals faced a one-run deficit late in Game 7 until Kendrick, a 36-year-old in the twilight of his career, flipped the script and put a 91-mph cut fastball into right field, giving Washington its first lead of the night. Fans had to endure a bit of drama as the ball sliced toward the foul pole before bouncing off it.
After a brief run-in with the foul pole last night, this baseball is on its way to Cooperstown! Thank you to Howie Kendrick for generously donating his Game 7 home run ball to the HOF. That homer gave the @nationals the lead in the 7th inning, and the rest is baseball history. pic.twitter.com/wGGtJiUvfh— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) October 31, 2019
2. World Series Game 7 | Juan Soto’s RBI single off Roberto Osuna
Situation: Top of the eighth, two outs, runner on second
Championship Win Probability Added: 12.6 percent
Soto capped off a sensational World Series with a hit off the Astros’ closer that increased Washington’s lead to 4-2. The 21-year-old phenom finished the series batting 9 for 27 (.333) with three home runs, seven RBI and a stolen base.
3. World Series Game 6 | Anthony Rendon’s two-run homer off Will Harris
Situation: Top of the seventh, two outs, runner on first
Championship Win Probability Added: 10.8 percent
After Trea Turner had been called out on a controversial interference call at first base, Rendon belted a 353-foot home run off a cutter down the middle, extending the Nationals’ lead to 5-2.
4. World Series Game 7 | Anthony Rendon’s solo home run off Zack Greinke
Situation: Top of the seventh, one out, bases empty
Championship Win Probability Added: 10.7 percent
Greinke, who was forcing groundout after groundout in the early innings, left a change-up in a vulnerable spot for Rendon, who gave the Nationals their first run of the game. The homer was just the fifth Greinke allowed on 724 change-ups this season, including the playoffs.
5. NL wild-card game | Juan Soto’s two-run single off Josh Hader
Situation: Bottom of the eighth, two outs, bases loaded
Championship Win Probability Added: 7.3 percent
In the winner-take-all playoff game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Soto’s only hit was a line-drive single to right off Hader’s high four-seam fastball. Michael A. Taylor and Andrew Stevenson scored, and then Anthony Rendon crossed the plate after Trent Grisham’s error.
6. World Series Game 6 | Juan Soto’s solo home run off Justin Verlander
Situation: Top of the fifth, two outs, bases empty
Championship Win Probability Added: 7.0 percent
Soto’s 413-foot shot was his fifth homer of the playoffs, the most by any player 21 or younger in a single postseason. To add insult to injury for the Astros, Soto mocked Alex Bregman’s home run celebration from earlier in the game, carrying his bat to first base.
7. World Series Game 1 | Juan Soto’s two-run double off Gerrit Cole
Situation: Top of the fifth, two outs, runners on first and third
Championship Win Probability Added: 6.3 percent
Soto was instrumental in handing Astros starter Gerrit Cole his first loss in five months. He hit a game-tying home run off Cole in the fourth inning, and then his double to left in the following inning got the Nationals two insurance runs that pushed their lead to 5-2 and their win probability in the game from 62 to 81 percent.
8. NLDS Game 5 | Anthony Rendon’s double off Joe Kelly
Situation: Top of the 10th, no outs, runner on first
Championship Win Probability Added: 6.3 percent
Rendon’s ground-rule double against Kelly’s knuckle-curve sent Adam Eaton from first to third, setting the stage for a monstrous at-bat from Howie Kendrick a few pitches later. (This play ranks higher than Kendrick’s grand slam because Rendon’s hit with no outs put the Nationals in prime position to take the lead in this deciding game.)
9. World Series Game 2 | Kurt Suzuki’s solo home run off Justin Verlander
Situation: Top of the seventh, no outs, bases empty
Championship Win Probability Added: 6.2 percent
The veteran catcher was ailing from a sore back but got the call despite entering the game hitting 1 for 23 (.043) during the postseason. Suzuki guided ace Stephen Strasburg through five innings and then contributed at the plate in the seventh when he took a 94-mph fastball from Verlander and put it into the seats beyond left-center field, making him the first Hawaiian-born player to hit a home run in the World Series.
10. World Series Game 6 | Adam Eaton’s home run off Justin Verlander
Situation: Top of the fifth, one out, bases empty
Championship Win Probability Added: 6.0 percent
Eaton’s solo home run tied the score at 2 and helped silence a Houston crowd that was thinking championship after the Astros took an early 2-1 lead. It was Eaton’s only hit of the game, but he did finish with two runs and a walk and was hit by a pitch.
11. NLDS Game 5 | Juan Soto’s solo home run off Clayton Kershaw
Situation: Top of the eighth, no outs, bases empty
Championship Win Probability Added: 5.7 percent
Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and the 2014 National League MVP, was brought in as a reliever to finish the seventh inning and then was set to face the Nationals’ Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters in the eighth with the Dodgers up 3-1. Soto followed an Anthony Rendon homer by crushing a Kershaw slider 449 feet to tie the score at 3.
12. World Series Game 6 | Stephen Strasburg’s strikeout of Jose Altuve
Situation: bottom of the fifth, one out, runners on second and third
Championship Win Probability Added: 5.5 percent
This is the biggest pitch sequence of Strasburg’s career. He starts Altuve, the 2017 AL MVP, with his change-up, one of the best pitches in baseball, for a strike. Then he throws a curveball on the outside of the plate that’s fouled off for strike two. Strasburg follows that up with another breaking ball that Altuve chases for strike three. For reference, Altuve struck out on three pitches just 11 times during the regular season.
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